Is it time to ban leaf blowers now, end the noise and air pollution?

Home » Is it time to ban leaf blowers now, end the noise and air pollution?

Ban leaf blowers now. That thought burned across my mind as the crew outside entered its third hour of noise and air pollution.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

By David Stone

Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

Introduction to an unjustifiable public nuisance…

“The noise is an overbearing nuisance to residents working and studying at home,” wrote David Propper in The Record Online. “And people should not have to breathe dust particles created by leaf blowers while trying to stave off a deadly respiratory disease that is all-too-common in the region.”

All I can add is, “Amen,” after three furious hours of noise and dust.

Let's ban leaf blowers, the enemy of vivid autumn leaves scattered on ground...
When did we decide that leaves were not the sweet joys of autumn, thrills where kids could play? Why drive hundreds of mile to see them while blowing them away in 200 mph gusts back home?

The really strange thing about the proliferation of leaf blowers is that there’s so much bad about them against almost nothing positive. And finally, awareness has brought bans across the country, but not enough of them, and not in my backyard.

Ban leaf blowers: from nuisance to health menace…

I was first exposed to the horrors of leaf blowers against my will. Freed from my office with a mostly work at home arrangement, I leaped at the prospect of making phone calls, the major work of my job in sales, outdoors in fair weather.

But summer brought something else: noisy, ubiquitous leaf blowers. It got so bad on some days, I felt like they were stalking me, seeking me out in every quiet corner of my community. Eventually, I gave up on making calls in once gentle parks and, at my wife’s request, complaining about leaf blowers every time they disrupted our daily walks.

But I was in for a surprise because these machines are worse than their disruptive noise. They are deadly polluters.

So, how bad are they really…?

About leaf blowers, James Fallow wrote in “Get Off My Lawn” in The Atlantic, “The real marvel is the living-fossil nature of their technology. And because the technology is so crude and old, the level of pollution is off the charts.”

And he reminds us of a warning from the California Air Resources Board: “By 2020, gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and similar equipment in the state could produce more ozone pollution than all the millions of cars in California combined. Two-stroke engines are that dirty. “

Winifred Rosen in Ban Leafblowers: “Because they are designed to be air-cooled, the engines release 100% of their tailgate emissions directly into the environment, and since they also burn fuel very inefficiently, a leafblower running for one hour emits as many hydrocarbons and other pollutants into the atmosphere as a car driven at 55 mph for 110 miles.”

This I read after, not one, but two leaf blowers blasted away for three hours, 12 floors below. But he distance was of no benefit because the stirred up leaves, along with gritty dust, and worse, carried all the way up, along with the noise.

They’re dreadful with little benefit; so ban the damn leaf blowers…

Sadly, local governments know and do nothing anyway. On its website, here in New York, the Department of Environment Conservation says that leaf blowers can cause dust particles, filled with pollen, mold, animal feces and chemicals, to float in the air.

Ken Wray, the mayor of Sleepy Hollow, adds, “…it’s still unconscionable to blow all this (crap) in the air when everybody’s home.” Good point, and he tops it with a question in the Record Online article. “Folks, what’s wrong with a rake?”

Well, the industry has an answer for that, and it’s the only thing resembling a positive argument for leaf blowers. They save time. And they same money for real estate managers and municipal governments.

In theory, but Rosen blazed an answer for that. The claim is “…outrageous, since it implies that the time stolen from the rest of us is worthless.”

And there’s even more: environmental damage…

A last word from Rosen…

“Leafblowers literally scour the earth: stripping off topsoil, desiccating roots, and killing vital soil-dwelling organisms, while, at the same time, propelling into the air clouds of dirt, dust and dangerous contaminants: volatile compounds, mold and fungal spores, weed seeds, insect eggs, pollen, molecules of the myriads of toxic chemicals people spray and sprinkle on their gardens, trees, and lawns, not to mention bird and rodent feces, and more.”

A memory from watching the leaf blower crew at work came into my mind. When his leaf blower actually blasted one small plant out of the ground, assuming no one was watching, a laborer artfully tucked it back in place.

It’ll be dead before his visit next week.

Awaiting the next round of leaf blower disruptions, I recall a time when falling leaves of autumn were a joy. My brothers and I raked the beautiful maples into a huge pile out front, and then, we dived in. You could get lost in the joys of leaves, light and sweet-smelling, in the lucky days before leaf blowers assaulted us with noise and pollution.

We need to ban those suckers, and do it now.

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